Landsat Next, which will be the new observation system after Landsat 9 is being worked on, and NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are expected to give out a Request for Information instrumentation and platforms for the system late this year.
According to Jim Reilly, the USGS Director, the two entities are looking for new options to transform the system from its traditional single large satellite bus. NASA and USGS have already successfully carried out a study on Sustainable Land Imaging Architecture, which was run for 18 months. The study aimed to assess the competences of the existing government satellites and the planned ones.
With the field of space exploration facing significant changes and advancement, NASA looks forward to taking advantage of these changes, and according to Reilly, NASA and USGS are poised to come up with a successful way to combine all the information, standardize and be able to authenticate it.
The Landsat program was started in the 1970s and has successfully offered a global record of land areas. The data began being provided with no charge in 2008, and it will continue being free according to NASA Earth Science Division director, Karen St. Germain. NASA and USGS have been considering to share the imagery obtained by other government agencies like the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to acquire statistics that can be used by the regime in the future.
The Landsat 9 is expected to be launched by September 2021. The difference between this satellite to its predecessor, the Landsat 8, is that Landsat 9 can process more volumes of data though it operates just like the Landsat 8. Landsat 9 satellite was built by Northrop Grumman based in Gilbert, Arizona, and is structured to stock the Operational Land Imager2 built by Ball Aerospace and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight center based in Greenbelt, Maryland. The whole project is estimated to cost around 1 billion U.S. dollars.
A report released in 2019 by the U.S. Interior Department and USGS indicated that the imagery obtained in 2017 was worth over 3.4 US dollars to international users and around 2.1 billion U.S. dollars to customers based in the United States.
According to the study, the Landsat program has provided economic benefits in billions of dollars to the United States. This has been achieved through support and application in areas like monitoring and forecasting agriculture, water resource management, wildfire mapping, and remediation. The program has also helped in the forest and rangeland management and observing of hazards and their mitigation.